Had enough of summer yet? We have hit the summer weather doldrums in Houston. For the most part the weather is the same every day now – and barring any tropical systems it will continue to be for the next couple of months. The forecast will just be copy and pasted each day: hot, humid, and a small chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Since it is a slow time for weather excitement I decided to start doing “mailbag” posts where I answer weather related questions for the people. I would like to make this a regular piece so if you have a question please tweet me @stephenuzick or leave a comment on this post. Here is your inaugural mailbag:
Brien: What kind of summer are we looking at? Lots of heavy rain and humidity? Lots of Houston heat? Or a balance of both.
Thankfully we are about halfway through the summer and it has not been as totally unbearable as it could be. If anything I would say this summer has been about average both in terms of temperatures and rainfall.
Summer weather across the mid-section of the country is largely controlled by an area of high pressure that settles in over the continent. In general this summer time high produces hot temperatures, calm winds, and lower precipitation in areas it is influencing. Why? High pressure areas cause a sinking motion in the atmosphere. As air sinks from higher in the atmosphere to lower levels its pressure increases which causes the air to warm. Additionally, this sinking motion inhibits precipitation as storms require rising air to form. Due to other influences in the atmosphere areas of high pressure can move around, expand and contract. When the high over the country’s mid-section expands or drifts further south and covers our area we experience hotter days with no rain and few clouds.
In summers past (think the terrible drought of 2011) the high has anchored in and dominated our weather for months. Thankfully this summer the high has not expanded into our area as frequently and has not had exclusive control over our weather. This has kept our temperatures closer to average and more importantly has allowed daily sea-breeze thunderstorms to develop. These storms not only help to temporarily cool off the areas over which they move, but they also help keep the ground from totally drying out. While a relatively moist ground does not help with humidity it does help to keep temperatures from skyrocketing, as humid air takes longer to heat up than dry air (it also takes longer to cool which is why our temperatures remain relatively warm overnight in the summer).
The extended outlook for August looks to largely keep with the same pattern we have been seeing thus far this summer. There is a potential for average to slightly above average temperatures the rest of the summer, but average precipitation. August and usually most of September are always going to be hot and humid, there is no getting around that, however if our current pattern holds and we continue to get semi-regular doses of pop-up storms the rest of the summer should remain bearable.
Chris: What effects, if any, do eclipses like the total solar eclipse happening next month have on weather?
For those who don’t know there will be a solar eclipse across the United States on August 21st. The path of totality (areas that will see a total eclipse) will cut southeast from Oregon, through the midsection of the country and go off the east coast over South Carolina. We in Houston will not see a total eclipse but about 70% of the sun will be covered here. This is a topic that is worth of its own piece so expect that to be coming in the next couple of weeks.
In areas that experience a total eclipse daylight will darken to twilight and temperatures will respond accordingly. Since it is occurring during the summer and there will be a lot of residual ground warmth the temperature won’t plummet in those areas, but it will noticeably drop, maybe around 10 degrees or so.
Since we won’t see full coverage here in Houston the effect on our weather will be minimal. However, this is still an event not to be missed. I would encourage everyone to get a pair of eclipse glasses so they can take it in. If you miss this one or it happens to be cloudy don’t worry, there will be another eclipse in 2024 and Texas will take center stage. During the 2024 eclipse the path of totality will pass thought the center of the state and include places like Austin and San Antonio.
Coming Soon: Football season is around the corner (thankfully) and with that I will be starting a weekly briefing for fantasy. I will be providing information on how weather conditions for each game could affect players to hopefully give you an edge in setting your lineups. Look for more information coming on this soon.